Colorado Went From Summer To Winter And No, That’s Not Really Normal

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A lone figure crosses an expanse of snow in Cheesman Park. Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado kiddos (or teens) trick-or-treating Thursday will have to cover up their Halloween costumes with winter coats, with temperatures expected to be in the upper 20s and low 30s for most of the state.

Stephen Hodanish with the National Weather Service said the weather will be “boring” compared to the snowstorm and frigid temperatures earlier this week. 

“No wind, no precipitation. It’s going to be on the cold side,” he said. “If the kids dress up warm, they’ll be fine.”

Unlike Wednesday, where weather stations across the state broke records for the coldest maximum and minimum temperatures for October. The coldest low temperatures recorded Wednesday included 5 degrees in Mesa Verde, 11 in Grand Junction, 1 in Limon and minus 13 in Walden.

Colorado Weather
David Zalubowski/AP
A cross-country skier moves through Washington Park as an autumn snowstorm sweeps over the intermountain West, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Denver.

Becky Bolinger with the Colorado Climate Center said the snowstorm combined with extremely cold temperatures has been unusual for this month. 

“The snowstorms we typically have in October aren't really associated with air that is this cold,” she said. “This is more consistent with the cold air we might expect to see in December or January. So I think those two combined really make it pretty rare, not completely unprecedented.”

Bolinger said what has been most interesting to her about the weather in October is how cold it has gotten since September. Last month was the hottest September on record with temperatures in the 100s. 

“It pretty much feels like we went from a summer month to a winter month,” she said. “I don't think this is going to be our coldest October on record, but it is a very cold October. And so to have temperatures in October that are negative degrees right after a month where we had a hundred degrees, that to me is kind of one of the most shocking things about what's been happening this fall.”

The stark change in weather is related to climate change, Bolinger said, but the story is a little more complicated than that. 

The wavy weather pattern right now is causing cold temperatures and snow in Colorado but has brought heat to other places like Alaska, where the weather is still relatively warm. The pattern has also caused wind and heat to fuel wildfires in California, Bolinger said. The polar vortex is also pushing cold arctic air down through the middle part of the United States while causing lots of precipitation in the eastern part of the U.S. 

Bolinger said previous Colorado Octobers with lots of snow usually indicate a winter with good snowpack, but temperatures will still likely be warmer than average.

Aurora got a total of 13 inches of snow this week. West of Colorado Springs and Southwest Pueblo received 15 inches of snow. The northern part of the state near Wellington received about an inch.